A grant from Seacology was recently awarded to Choll Village of Ngaraard State for the improvement of the village’s marina known as “Taoch era Illebei” on the west coast of the big island of Babeldaob.

            According to the traditional chiefs of Choll known as Ngarasechedui headed by Chief NGIRAMEKETII Elbuchel Sadang, the awarded grant in the amount of $35,000.00 is to assist in the restoration and rebuilding of the marina’s stone walk-way. The marina is about 275 feet long and 9 feet wide with about 5 feet in height from the sea-bed. It was built over a century ago made up of boulders and stones carried on make-shift rafts from the reefs for the construction. All villagers at the time, young and old, supervised by the village leaders, labored to complete the project.

NGIRAMEKETII Elbuchel Sadang and Treasurer Isaac Bai

            “Due to Climate Change,” stated Chief NGIRAMEKETII Sadang, “the stone walk-way is in bad shape from the sea water pushed by waves onto the stones eroding the grassy natural adhesive that holds the stones together.” The Chief also mentioned that the sea has risen dangerously thus submerging the walk-way under the water.

            Meeting of the villagers will take place early in May to update the community before the work commences, according to Chief NGIRATENGADIK Wilbert Ngirakamerang who is the Site Manager for the project. Materials for the activity work ahead are being purchased in preparation for the construction.

The stone walk-way will be elevated about two feet on top of the existing walk-way with stones and boulders from land quarries. “We will not remove reef stones and boulders as in the old days,” said Ngarasechedui Treasurer Isaac Bai, “as our reefs help protect our coastlines.” Chief NGIRATENGADIK also said that the mangrove channel will be excavated as well for easy accessibility of sea crafts as it has become shallow during the years.

A stone walkway has a traditional charm that is ideal for the villagers providing easy access to and from the sea for fishing and gathering food as well as a means of controlling sands from erosion on the east coast. Moreover, a stepping stone walk-way creates an inviting look that draws foot traffic and augments the traditional appearance that defines and enhances the surrounding natural landscape.

With Palau’s action to meet the sustainable development goals, Ngarasechedui, on behalf of Choll villagers, is privilege to demonstrate their participation to promote understanding and awareness of the goals being met. The constitutions of Palau and Ngaraard State both recognizes traditional authority of the island and therefore Ngarasechedui continues to performs their role as guardians and protectors of their village.

In exchange for the grant funding from Seacology, a 50-acre mangrove tract surrounding the Illebei marina will be protected for the next 20 years. Cutting of mangrove trees will be prohibited unless necessary, however, traditional fishing such as digging for mud clams, mangrove crabs hunting, etc… continues for villagers on a seasonal period.

Going forward, the area will be incorporated into the Kerradel Conservation Network, the Ngaraard State Protected Areas Network program just like the Remachel Area to the east coast of Choll that was recently incorporated as a PAN site managed by KCN.

The history of Seacology began in 1990 in the South Pacific nation of Samoa that started with the idea for helping island communities (rich in natural resources and culture, but poor in terms of cash) preserve their ancestral forests and seas. It became Seacology’s model which provide material benefit to a village that pledges to protect its natural resources. All Seacology projects help protect island species, which include some of the world’s rarest plants and animals.

Information shared recently by Ms. Charlene Mersai of the Office of Environmental Response & Coordination and forwarded by Mr. Joe Aitaro of the Climate Change office, both from the National Government, shows a couple of Seacology successful projects in Melekeok State (construction of a solar-powered, eco-friendly, visitor and education center in exchange for conserving the 5 km2 Lake Ngaradok Nature Reserve) and Ngaremlengui State (construction of a combined covered bridge and welcome center and three smaller foot bridges in exchange for protecting, as a no-take area in perpetuity, the 820 ha Ngarmeskang Nature Reserve).

On behalf of Choll villagers, the community and Ngarasechedui, Chief NGIRAMEKETII Sadang expresses his most humble gratitude to Seacology for the grant support. “Not only is the stone-walk-way project being constructed for the people, “said NGIRAMEKETII,” but by preserving the surrounding mangrove we also protect the diverse species making a living within the mangrove sea forest.”

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